Red Line Metro stations to close for maintenance work over Labor Day weekend

By Ann Scott Tyson
Washington Post Staff Writer
Sunday, August 29, 2010

Metro is taking advantage of expected low ridership during the Labor Day weekend to close five Red Line stations for one of the biggest maintenance projects in the history of the transit system.

The project will replace track switches and install hundreds of track fasteners, crossties and feet of track as part of safety improvements recommended by the National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB).

"The main portion of the work is replacing two switches outside the Silver Spring Metro station" and placing guards on those switches as part of the NTSB recommendations following a 2007 Metro derailment at Mount Vernon Square station, said Metro spokesman Steven Taubenkibel. He said the guards, which are aimed at preventing derailments, have been installed on 114 out of 178 switches in Metro's rail system so far.

Other work will include putting in new safety lights and repairing water leaks in tunnels, and laying 2,400 feet of fiber optic cables in order to upgrade cellphone access in the system.

Metro estimates that the track work will affect about 5,500 people, the number that used the stations that will be closed during the same period last year. The work is not related to Metro's Red Line rehabilitation program, Taubenkibel said.

In recent years, Metro has concentrated maintenance work on holiday weekends in order to shorten the time and disruption it causes and save money in late-night maintenance costs. This weekend's work during station shutdowns is expected to save Metro more than $1 million and prevent as many as five months of single-tracking of trains.

During Labor Day weekend last year Metro closed three stations on the Yellow and Blue lines, including the stop at Reagan National Airport. The news sparked a furor from political leaders and holiday travelers who said they had received inadequate notice. The transit agency has been providing detailed information about this year's Labor Day work for weeks.

"One of the lessons learned that came out of the Labor Day weekend work from a year ago is . . . we try to give the region and our customers a 30-day notice," Taubenkibel said.

Metro plans to conduct other major work over the Columbus Day holiday in October, replacing the switch at McPherson Square, and plans to announce the details soon after Labor Day. Here are the details and Metro's plans for helping riders get around the closures:

Starting Friday at 10 p.m., the Takoma, Silver Spring, Forest Glen, Wheaton and Glenmont stations will be closed until 1 a.m. on Sept. 7. Normal service will resume at the stations Sept. 7 at 5 a.m.

During the time the stations are closed, Metro will operate free shuttle buses to all stations between Fort Totten and Glenmont. Metro estimates that anyone traveling through the work zone should add 40 minutes to their trips. Metro's trip planner feature will not reflect the time changes caused by the track work, officials said.

During the day, all Red Line trains will operate approximately every six minutes Saturday, Sept. 4, and about every seven to eight minutes Sept. 5 and Sept. 6. After 9:30 p.m. from Sept. 3 to Sept. 6, all Red Line trains will operate approximately every 15 minutes.

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